Thursday, August 6, 2009

A few random thoughts on how we treat the ones we "love"

I witnessed a couple of things recently that have me kind of searching for the meaning behind how we treat one another and especially those we purport to love.

I'm almost certain I'm gonna piss off any number of people with the things I am about to say, so if you're sensitive about the criticisms that we each make about one another's behaviors, you should stop reading now. Really.

Another caveat before I continue. My thoughts and opinions are mine. They are born of my own unique experiences, insights and feelings. I am not and have never been married. I don't have any children. I am an enigma of risk-taking and risk-aversion. I care about things deeply and am often overwhelmed by the feelings that I get from being empathetic towards other. Sometimes I'm not and I just get mad.

Encounter #1
: Last Sunday Sasha and I were taking a long walk through the neighborhood when we crossed paths with a man who was walking a beagle. He politely stepped aside so that we could pass. As we passed him, Sasha and his beagle tried very hard to get close enough to sniff one another. After asking if it was okay, I allowed Sasha to get close enough to sniff the other dog. Meanwhile, I struck up a brief conversation with the man. I simply said, "That's a very pretty dog. I had a beagle mix when I was little." To which he responded. "She is NOT a mix!"

Oooookaaayy. I'm sure I've shared my opinion on dogs/cats/etc before. Sasha is a mutt and that is perfectly fine with me! She is a wonderfully smart, amazing dog. Would she be any better if she was a purebred? Who knows. My guess is no. If you want to spend your money on a purebred dog, that's fine. I'm not going to think any less of you. All I'm asking is that you show me the same courtesy. There are sooo many dogs in shelters that are just as wonderful. Many of them actually purebreds.

Anyway, I digress. The man then goes on to tell me that the beagle is grand champion and that she's about to fly to Canada where she will spend a year competing in obedience/agility (?) courses. Then she'll come back here where she'll be "kenneled" because it will be time for the younger ones to compete. Being a little taken aback by his comment, I asked how old she was. He said she was 6. The average life expectancy for a beagle is between 12 - 15 years, so what you're saying is that since your dog is middle-aged, she no longer measures up? My heart went out to this poor dog. If it's been competing for most of its life, it's used to regular mental and physical stimulation. I can't imagine she's going to continue to get that in the "kennel". Is this really how you treat an animal that has brought accolades to you?

My fury was somewhat squealched when he tried to show what a great champion she was. He said to her, "Sadie! Lay.....lay.....lay......lay". Needless to say, Sadie didn't respond in the least. I just kind of chuckled to myself knowing that my mutt could most definitely obey a simple command even when distracted by another dog.
Encounter #2:
Recently I've been working with Dr. F (my psychologist) about what it means to figure out what I want, how to care about myself and learn that those things (if not destructive) are ok. In the course of doing so, we always talk about my past life experiences and how they might have gotten me to where I am today. Part of that talking recently brought me to the realization that perhaps in addition to eating to deal with emotions (because I was just too sensitive, you know), I also ate because I was bored out of my mind.

When school was in session things were better, but still frustrating because when there are a class of 20 students there are inevitably going to be some kids who learn slower than I did and we had to go at their pace instead of mine. When school was out though, things were mind-numbingly boring. I loved reading as an adolescent and because my mom worked and my dad slept during the day because he worked at night, the one VERY bright spot in my week was Thursday morning when the bookmobile would come. I loved being able to walk down to the end of the street and checking out enough books to keep me busy until the next week. Unfortunately my mom thought I wasn't responsible enough to keep my own library card (I'm not sure how a kid is supposed to learn how to be responsible if they are never given any responsibilities, but that's a whole other topic), so she would have to leave it for me so that I could check out the books. Since she was often working two jobs, she would sometimes forget. Ugh.... I would have to return the books I had and not be able to get any more. Boredom ensued.

I was also very curious about things. Even today, I love going to factories where you can see how something is made or watching TV shows that delve into the inner working of things like why we call a sandwich a sandwich. Often that curiousity was not fed. I understand my parents were VERY busy working multiple jobs and trying to keep a roof over our heads. Unfortunately, I think I needed more one on one attention to the details of the things around us.

Enter my experience in the grocery store the other night. A mother (probably in her late 20s) was there with her 2 sons (I'm guessing about 7 and 10). While they were shopping, the older boy patiently held out a container of cookies and then asked, "may we get these?" The mother's response? A grunt and a scowl, which apparently the boy understood to mean, "No". Then, while in the produce section, the boy spotted some kiwi. Since this is sort of an exotic fruit to those in the midwest, I'm guessing he probably hadn't seem them before. He simply asked his mom, "What are these?" The mom's response? (Without even glancing in the child's direction!) she gruffly said, "I don't know. Get over here!"

Ok, I understand that we all get tired and frustrated and annoyed with those around us, but my heart went out to this kid. He was polite (a trait I think is sometimes lacking in most kids) and he was truly inquisitive. He had encountered something that was foreign to him and he was curious about it. This seemed like a perfect teaching moment. If the mom knows, she could at least tell him. If she doesn't, maybe we say, "I don't know, but remind me when we get home and we can look it up." I know. I know. I'm living in a fantasy world, but why is that? Shouldn't we WANT kids to seek out knowledge and to grow beyond where we are so that they can make the world a better place? Is it easy? No. Is it time-consuming and labor intensive? Yes! Do we have to actually PAY ATTENTION in order for that to happen? Certainly! Is it worth it in the long run? Most definitely!

Agree? Don't agree? You've got lots of choices at this point. Here are just 2 that I offer. 1) Either agree or fume in silence. 2) Start a conversation about what you think. With me. With your spouse. With your children. Heck, with your mailman. Just get involved and pay attention to what is going on around you.

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